The Milwaukee Bucks deserved their wild Game 4 win over the Bulls on Saturday. The Bucks have been too good this season to be swept in the first round. Jerryd Bayless’ buzzer-beating layup was a well deserved climax of what has been a tremendous turnaround season for Jason Kidd and Co. Milwaukee’s aggressive, in-your-face style of defense bodes well for their future, so much so that the Bucks could be a contender sooner than you’d think.
The Bucks forced an amazing 26 turnovers against the Bulls on Saturday, nothing new considering Chicago was coughing up the ball 17.3 times per game heading into Game 4. Milwaukee scored 28 points off turnovers in the game, something they desperately needed to help their abysmal offensive attack (shot just 39.1 percent from the field on Saturday). The Bucks forced the most turnovers in the NBA this season, but the Bulls were actually above average at holding onto the ball (ranking 12th in the league in turnover ratio). The Bucks have overwhelmed the Bulls’ offense with constant traps, double teams, and airtight ball pressure. Milwaukee’s roster is laden with length, on length on length.
BUCKS FUTURE STARTING LINEUP
Point guard: Michael Carter-Williams (6-foot-6)
Shooting guard: Khris Middleton (6-foot-7)
Small forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo (6-foot-11)
Power forward: Jabari Parker, although him and Greek Freak can play either forward spot (6-foot-8)
Center: John Henson (6-foot-11)
Although veterans Ersan Illyasova and Zaza Pachulia man starting spots at the moment, Milwaukee’s future starting lineup is chock full of youth and length. Henson is the oldest player of that bunch at the age of 24, which is just ridiculous. The Bucks finished second in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions due in large part to their incredible mix of youth and length. This team is a coach’s dream, allowing Kidd to let his players switch, trap, and double without getting spurned for it. The Bulls have yet to force the Bucks to dial back their aggressiveness on defense because Chicago hasn’t been able to move the ball quick enough. Pau Gasol has been a non-factor for most this series as he’s had to deal with constant double teams. Gasol’s decision-making and passing instincts haven’t been quick enough to stop the Bucks from trapping him. The Bucks have also completely ignored Joakim Noah in this series, making the passing lanes almost non-existent for the Bulls. As good as the Bucks have been on defense this season is as bad as they’ve been on the other end.
Milwaukee ranked 25th in the league in points per 100 possessions at 100.5, ranking dead last among playoff teams. Switching Brandon Knight for Carter-Williams has hurt the offense even more-so, but there’s more players to blame than just him. Antetokounmpo has made some major strides offensively this season, but his jumper still doesn’t strike fear in any opponent. Just watch how far the Bulls have played off him so far in this series. Middleton can shoot the ball, connecting on 40.7 percent of his 3-pointers this season, but he struggles to create his own shot and finish through contact. Henson relies on putbacks and layups for the vast majority of his offense. The Bucks lack ideal floor-spacing to put up even league-average numbers offensively. The return of Parker next season should go a long way in helping the Bucks move towards being a more competent offensive team.
Parker was erratic during his 25 games played this season before tearing his ACL, but his 50.6 percent shooting on 2-pointers and 14.60 PER (sixth among rookies) bodes well for his future. Parker was viewed as a more NBA-ready prospect than Andrew Wiggins out of college and he’ll have the chance to prove that next season.
Winning one game in a best-of-seven series isn’t groundbreaking. The Bucks still have a long way to go in this series and in building a potential contending team in the future. But considering Milwaukee hadn’t won a playoff game since 2010 before Saturday, let them enjoy this Game 4 victory. With a league-worst record of 15-67 last season, no one saw this coming. Who know’s where the Bucks will be at this time next season with even more growth and development. It might not be the last time this team wins a playoff game in the near future.